Why Snapchat Totally Wins — The Design Perspective

If you haven’t read part 1 of this series yet, check it out here. Last time, I reasoned why Snapchat’s design fails with some glaring issues. However, at the end of the article, I still loved the app. Let me get to the point — Snapchat is one of the very few apps that basically teaches you that usability isn’t everything.

One of the main issues I mentioned was the discoverability of features in the app. But Snapchat’s mantra is a little different. Discovering those features creates a moment of delight for the user and makes the app that much more engaging and fun (e.g., long press on your face to expose filters)! Similarly, the random placement of content on each page continues on with the moment of delight notion. You’re never bored with the content you discover because it’s constantly changing. Content placement isn’t an issue if you provide the user with the right type of content.

Snapchat started off with a very basic concept that allowed users to share photos for up to 24 hours. As it continued to acquire users, Snapchat increased the number of features to keep the app interesting. Filters, stories, discover are just a few of the exciting features that make users wants to come back for more. And then there’s that whole peer pressure thing. Let’s face it, if all of our friends are using an app, it doesn’t matter how crappy the UX is, we’re going to put in effort to learn how to use it just to see what all the ruckus is about. That’s exactly what Snapchat did! They acquired users from their simple days, hooked them on the app, increased the number of features (that’s when the app got really messy in terms of UX) and then had those users entice their friends to get on the app. Genius.

What’s the main point of Snapchat? In short, stalking. It’s not a secret that this app is geared towards millennials. And what are millennials good at? They are good at finding information about anything and anyone. Snapchat is just another way to do that. Not only does that app allow you to keep track of what your friends are doing but it also enables you to see what others around the world are doing through Live Stories. Snapchat has ingeniously gotten companies to curate content for the app as well. Instead of just following Tastemade on Facebook and Instagram, people can watch nifty recipes on Snapchat as well! That’s all that millennials want anyway — another way to stalk their favorite companies.

So how does Snapchat win? It wins by showing you that following the rules doesn’t necessarily give you a better, more popular app. Breaking the rules sometimes works far better. All you need is a great concept and a bunch of millennials.